What are your best tips for maximizng flavor and tenderness when poaching chicken?
We would suggest trying My Mother's Praised Chicken on p223 of Nigella's new book Kitchen. Poaching is a great way to cook chicken as it ensures a moist chicken. Flavour can be added in many ways, by varying the aromatics and vegetables in the poaching liquid. We would suggest that you start by browning the chicken slightly in the pot that you are going to cook it in. This browning will help to add some flavour to the poaching liquid. Then add some white wine, vermouth or cider and let it bubble down a little to remove the alcohol.
Leeks and celery are good additions to the pot, along with a few peppercorns and some parley stalks. But you can add other flavourings such as fresh ginger root, a stick of lemongrass, lemon zest, fennel, thyme, coriander stalks, whatever you have to hand and suits your taste. Make sure your chicken is covered with the poaching liquid and once it has come up to the boil, reduce the heat to very low and cover the pan. Do not let the pan boil again but cook at the barest simmer, if the chicken boils then it will tend to turn the flesh a little stringy. An average chicken will take 1 1/2 to 2 hours to cook this way. If you are eating the chicken cold then remove the pan from the heat slightly early and let the chicken cool in the pan for about 30 minutes before removing to a plate and cooling and chilling as quickly as possible. The chickenwill continue to cook as it cools down but should still be nice and moist when eaten cold.